November 30th, 2006

surprise i'm nuts

Here is something I like:

Field recordings.

That is to say, recordings -- preferably untreated and unedited -- of ambient noise, nature sounds (and I mean real nature sounds, not the kind of bullshit you buy at Target of "rainforests"), animals, machinery, water. The Quiet American is one of my favorite recording artists. I routinely comb and the Phonography list for this kind of stuff. And I am fortunate enough to know a guy who sent me a bunch of stuff in the mail that I am stupidly excited about:

- Jean-Luc Hérelle, Pastoral Bells. A full album of cowbell. Not in the "needs more cowbell" sense, but in the "actual recordings of herds of belled cows roaming around Mediterranean pastures" sense.

- Various Artists, One of One: Snapshots of Sound. A bunch of "recordio-discs" from the 1940s, culled from little gimmick booths where anyone could wander in and cut a record for a nickel.

- The Ghost Orchid, An Introduction to EVP. Creepy "electronic voice phenomenon" recordings, really just bogue trickery and/or ambient sound by believed by paranormal types to be voices from beyond the grave showing up on idle recording devices.

- Phillip Schreibman, The Slow Peepers. Tree frogs in Washington state, recorded once and progressively played at half speed in five different iterations (so that the last track plays at one-tenth the speed of the first).

- Eric La Casa, Air.Ratio (ventilation ducts in famous French buildings) and Secousses Panoramiques (unaltered field recordings of elevators in Paris).

- Michel Barataud, The Inaudible World, Vols. 1 & 2: A Sound Guide to French Bats. Pretty much exactly what it says. Two CDs worth of French bats.

- Jim Fassett, Symphony of the Birds. Multilayered, pitch-altered and speed-futzed bird songs. This was done by the former music director at CBS Radio.

- Sounds of the Wind Farm in Searsburg, Vermont. This is some sounds of a wind farm in Searsburg, Vermont, is what it looks to be.

- David Dunn, Sound of Light in Trees. A bunch of hyper-sensitive mics pick up the sound of bark beetles devouring pine trees from within. From the guy who brought you Chaos and the Emergent Mind of the Pond, an album of underwater swamp bugs.

- Mark Poysden, Dutch Summer. Thunder, barking dogs, car doors slamming, footsteps, birdsongs.

- Jean-Francois LaPorte, Mantra. Recordings of a Zamboni. That's right, you heard me.

- Justin Bennett, Mosques of Tangier. Not the people in the mosques, but the buildings themselves and their environs.

- Douglas Haire, 19 American Waysides. I've been excited about hearing this thing for a long while: what Haire did, apparently, was go to 19 different rest stops from the east coast to Montana, set up an old Victrola, and play ancient 78RPM records while recording the resulting sound mixed with the ambient noise.

Now, see, here is the thing. I know a good bit about music; part of my income is as a professional music critic. But I cannot for the life of me explain why I like this stuff so much. Reading about it, it may seem like the dullest fucking thing imaginable, yet here I sit, ridiculously eager to hear a 45-minute-long recording of French elevators. Keep this in mind any time you get the urge to think I am smart.